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Full text of "A wheel within a wheel. How I learned to ride the bicycle, with some reflections by the way"

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A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 



A WHEEL WITHIN AWHEEL 

HOW I LEARNED TO 
RIDE THE BICYCLE 

WITH SOME REFLECTIONS BY THE WAY 



BY 

FRANCES E. WILLARD 

Illustrates 



FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY 

NEW YORK CHICAGO TORONTO 

1895 



Copyright, 1895, 
Bv FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY. 



GRATEFULLY DEDICATED 
TO 

LADY HENRY SOMERSET, 

WHO GAVE ME "GLADYS," 
THAT HARBINGER OF HEALTH AND HAPPINESS. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 

Miss WlLLARD .Frontispiece 

A LACK OF BALANCE facing page 21 

EASTNOR CASTLE 29 

" So EASY WHEN You KNOW How " 36 

" IT'S DOGGED AS DOES IT " 44 

" LET Go BUT STAND BY " 57 

" AT LAST " . , 72 



A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 




PRELIMINARY 

[ROM my earliest recollections, and 
up to the ripe age of fifty-three, I 
had been an active and diligent 
worker in the world. This sounds absurd ; 
but having almost no toys except such as I 
could manufacture, my first plays were but 
the outdoor work of active men and women 
on a small scale. Born with an inveterate 
opposition to staying in the house, I very 
early learned to use a carpenter's kit and a 
gardener's tools, and followed in my mimic 
way the occupations of the poulterer and the 
farmer, working my little field with a wooden 
plow of my own making, and felling saplings 
9 



10 

with an ax rigged up from the old iron of the 
wagon- shop. Living in the country, far from 
the artificial restraints and conventions by 
which most girls are hedged from the activi- 
ties that would develop a good physique, and 
endowed with the companionship of a mother 
who let me have my own sweet will, I " ran 
wild " until my sixteenth birthday, when the 
hampering long skirts were brought, with 
their accompanying corset and high heels ; 
my hair was clubbed up with pins, and I re- 
member writing in my journal, in the first 
heartbreak of a young human colt taken from 
its pleasant pasture, "Altogether, I recognize 
that my occupation is gone." 

From that time on I always realized and 
was obedient to the limitations thus imposed, 
though in my heart of hearts I felt their un- 
wisdom even more than their injustice. My 
work then changed from my beloved and 
breezy outdoor world to the indoor realm of 
study, teaching, writing, speaking, and went 
on almost without a break or pain until my 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE II 

fifty-third year, when the loss of my mother 
accentuated the strain of this long period in 
which mental and physical life were out of 
balance, and I fell into a mild form of what 
is called nerve-wear by the patient and ner- 
vous prostration by the lookers-on. Thus 
ruthlessly thrown out of the usual lines of 
reaction on my environment, and sighing for 
new worlds to conquer, I determined that I 
would learn the bicycle. 

An English naval officer had said to me, 
after learning it himself, " You women have 
no idea of the new realm of happiness which 
the bicycle has opened to us men." Already I 
knew well enough that tens of thousands who 
could never afford to own, feed, and stable 
a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed 
the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the 
most fascinating feature of material life, the 
charm of a wide outlook upon the natural 
world, and that sense of mastery which is 
probably the greatest attraction in horseback- 
riding. But the steed that never tires, and is 



12 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

" mettlesome " in the fullest sense of the 
word, is full of tricks and capers, and to hold 
his head steady and make him prance to suit 
you is no small accomplishment. I had often 
mentioned in my temperance writings that 
the bicycle was perhaps our strongest ally 
in winning young men away from public- 
houses, because it afforded them a pleasure 
far more enduring, and an exhilaration as 
much more delightful as the natural is than 
the unnatural. From my observation of my 
own brother and hundreds of young men 
who have been my pupils, I have always 
held that a boy's heart is not set in him to 
do evil any more than a girl's, and that the 
reason our young men fall into evil ways is 
largely because we have not had the wit and 
wisdom to provide them with amusements 
suited to their joyous youth, by means of 
which they could invest their superabundant 
animal spirits in ways that should harm no 
one and help themselves to the best develop- 
ment and the cleanliest ways of living. So 



HOW 1 LEARNED TO RIDE 13 

as a temperance reformer I always felt a 
strong attraction toward the bicycle, because 
it is the vehicle of so much harmless pleasure, 
and because the skill required in handling it 
obliges those who mount to keep clear heads 
and steady hands. Nor could I see a reason 
in the world why a woman should not ride 
the silent steed so swift and blithesome. I 
knew perfectly well that when, some ten or 
fifteen years ago, Miss Bertha von Hillern, a 
young German artist in America, took it into 
her head to give exhibitions of her skill in 
riding the bicycle she was thought by some 
to be a sort of semi-monster; and liberal as 
our people are in their views of what a 
woman may undertake, I should certainly 
have felt compromised, at that remote and 
benighted period, by going to see her ride, 
not because there was any harm in it, but 
solely because of what we call in homely 
phrase " the speech of people." But behold! 
it was long ago conceded that women might 
ride the tricycle indeed, one had been pre- 



14 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

sented to me by my friend Colonel Pope, of 
Boston, a famous manufacturer of these swift 
roadsters, as far back as 1886; and I had 
swung around the garden-paths upon its sad- 
dle a few minutes every evening when work 
was over at my Rest Cottage home. I had 
even hoped to give an impetus among con- 
servative women to this new line of physical 
development and outdoor happiness; but 
that is quite another story and will come in 
later. Suffice it for the present that it did 
me good, as it doth the upright in heart, to 
notice recently that the Princesses Louise and 
Beatrice both ride the tricycle at Balmoral ; for 
I know that with the great mass of feminine 
humanity this precedent will have exceeding 
weight and where the tricycle prophesies 
the bicycle shall ere long preach the gospel 
of outdoors. 

For we are all unconsciously the slaves of 
public opinion. When the hansom first came 
on London streets no woman having regard 
to her social state and standing would have 
dreamed of entering one of these pavement 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 15 

gondoias unless accompanied by a gentleman 
as her escort. But in course of time a few 
women, of stronger individuality than the 
average, ventured to go unattended; later 
on, use wore off the glamour of the traditions 
which said that women must not go alone, 
and now none but an imbecile would hold 
herself to any such observance. 

A trip around the world by a young wo- 
man would have been regarded a quarter of 
a century ago as equivalent to social out- 
lawry ; but now young women of the highest 
character and talent are employed by leading 
journals to whip around the world " on time," 
and one has done so in seventy-three, an- 
other in seventy-four days, while the young 
women recently sent out by an Edinburgh 
newspaper will no doubt considerably con- 
tract these figures. 

As I have mentioned, Fraulein von Hillern 
is the first woman, so far as I know, who ever 
rode a bicycle, and for this she was consid- 
ered to be one of those persons who classified 
nowhere, and who could not do so except to 



1 6 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

the injury of the feminine guild with which 
they were connected before they " stepped 
out " ; but now, in France, for a woman to 
ride a bicycle is not only " good form," but 
the current craze among the aristocracy. 

Since Balaam's beast there has been but 
little authentic talking done by the four- 
footed; but that is no reason why the two- 
wheeled should not speak its mind, and the 
first utterance I have to chronicle in the softly 
flowing vocables of my bicycle is to the fol- 
lowing purport. I heard it as we trundled off 
down the Priory incline at the suburban home 
of Lady Henry Somerset, Reigate, England ; 
it said : " Behold, I do not fail you ; I am not 
a skittish beastie, but a sober, well-conducted 
roadster. I did not ask you to mount or 
drive, but since you have done so you must 
now learn the laws of balance and exploitation. 
I did not invent these laws, but I have been 
built conformably to them, and you must 
suit yourself to the unchanging regulations of 
gravity, general and specific, as illustrated in 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE I 7 

me. Strange as the paradox may seem, you 
will do this best by not trying to do it at all. 
You must make up what you are pleased to 
call your mind make it up speedily, or you 
will 'be cast in yonder mud-puddle, and no 
blame to me and no thanks to yourself. Two 
things must occupy your thinking powers to 
the exclusion of every other thing : first, the 
goal; and, second, the momentum requisite 
to reach it. Do not look down like an im- 
becile upon the steering-wheel in front of 
you that would be about as wise as for a 
nauseated voyager to keep his optical instru- 
ments fixed upon the rolling waves. It is 
the curse of life that nearly every one looks 
down. But the microscope will never set 
you free; you must glue your eyes to the 
telescope for ever and a day. Look up and 
off and on and out; get forehead and foot 
into line, the latter acting as a rhythmic spur 
in the flanks of your equilibriated equine ; so 
shall you win, and that right speedily. 

" It was divinely said that the kingdom of 



l8 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

God is within you. Some make a mysticism 
of this declaration, but it is hard common 
sense ; for the lesson you will learn from me is 
this : every kingdom over which we reign must 
be first formed within us on what the psychic 
people call the ' astral plane,' but what I as a 
bicycle look upon as the common parade- 
ground of individual thought." 

THE PROCESS 

Courtiers wittily say that horseback riding 
is the only thing in which a prince is apt to 
excel, for the reason that the horse never 
flatters and would as soon throw him as if he 
were a groom. Therefore it is only by actu- 
ally mastering the art of riding that a prince 
can hold his place with the noblest of the 
four-footed animals. 

Happily there is now another locomotive 
contrivance which is no flatterer, and which 
peasant and prince must master, if they do 
this at all, by the democratic route of honest 
hard work. Well will it be for rulers when 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 19 

the tough old Yorkshire proverb applies to 
them as strictly as to the lowest of their sub- 
jects : "It's dogged as does it." We all know 
the old saying, " Fire is a good servant, but 
a bad master." This is equally true of the 
bicycle : if you give it an inch nay, a hair it 
will take an ell nay, an evolution and you a 
contusion, or, like enough, a perforated knee- 
cap. 

Not a single friend encouraged me to learn 
the bicycle except an active-minded young 
school-teacher, Miss Luther, of my home- 
town, Evanston, who came several times with 
her wheel and gave me lessons. I also took 
a few lessons in a stuffy, semi-subterranean 
gallery in Chicago. But at fifty-three I was 
at more disadvantage than most people, for 
not only had I the impedimenta that result 
from the unnatural style of dress, but I also 
suffered from the sedentary habits of a life- 
time. And then that small world (which is 
our real one) of those who loved me best, 
and who considered themselves largely re- 



20 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

sponsible for my every-day methods of life, 
did not encourage me, but in their affection- 
ate solicitude and with abundant reason 
thought I should " break my bones " and 
"spoil my future." It must be said, how- 
ever, to their everlasting praise, that they 
opposed no objection when they s.aw that 
my will was firmly set to do this thing; on 
the contrary, they put me in the way of 
carrying out my purpose, and lent to my 
laborious lessons the light of their counte- 
nances reconciled. Actions speak so much 
louder than words that I here set before you 
what may be called a feminine bicycler's first 
position at least it was mine. 

Given a safety-bicycle pneumatic tires 
and all the rest of it which renders the pneu- 
matic safety the only safe Bucephalus the 
gearing carefully wired in so that we shall 
not be entangled. "Woe is me!" was my 
first exclamation, naturally enough inter- 
preted by my outriders "Whoa is me," and 




A LACK OF BALANCE. 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 21 

they " whoaed " indeed, we did little else 
but " check up." 

(Just here let me interpolate : Learn on 
a low machine, but " fly high " when once 
you have mastered it, as you have much 
more power over the wheels and can get up 
better speed with a less expenditure of force 
when you are above the instrument than 
when you are at the back of it. And re- 
member this is as true of the world as of the 
wheek) 

The order of evolution was something like 
this: First, three young Englishmen, all 
strong-armed and accomplished bicyclers, 
held the machine in place while I climbed 
timidly into the saddle. Second, two well- 
disposed young women put in all the power 
they had, until they grew red in the face, off- 
setting each other's pressure on the cross-bar 
and thus maintaining the equipoise to which 
I was unequal. Third, one walked beside 
me, steadying the ark as best she could by 



22 A WHEEL W1THM A WHEEL 

holding the center of the deadly cross-bar, to 
let go whose handles meant chaos and col- 
lapse. After this I was able to hold my own 
if I had the moral support of my kind trainers, 
and it passed into a proverb among them, the 
short emphatic word of command I gave 
them at every few turns of the wheel : " Let 
go, but stand by." Still later everything 
\\fos learned how to sit, how to pedal, how 
to turn, how to dismount; but alas! how to 
vault into the saddle I found not; that was 
the coveted power that lingered long and 
would not yield itself. 

That which caused the many failures I had 
in learning the bicycle had caused me failures 
in life ; namely, a certain fearful looking for 
of judgment; a too vivid realization of the 
uncertainty of everything about me ; an un- 
derlying doubt at once, however (and this is 
all that saved me), matched and overcome by 
the determination not to give in to it. 

The best gains that we make come to us 
after an interval of rest which follows stren- 



HOW 1 LEARNED TO RIDE 23 

uous endeavor. Having, as I hoped, mas- 
tered the rudiments of bicycling, I went away 
to Germany and for a fortnight did not even 
see the winsome wheel. Returning, I had 
the horse brought round, and mounted with 
no little trepidation, being assisted by one 
of my faithful guides; but behold! I found 
that in advancing, turning, and descending I 
was much more at home than when I had 
last exercised that new intelligence in the 
muscles which had been the result of repeti- 
tions resolutely attempted and practised long. 

Another thing I found is that we carry in 
the mind a picture of the road; and if it is 
humpy by reason of pebbles, even if we steer 
clear of them, we can by no means skim along 
as happily as when its smoothness facilitates 
the pleasing impression on the retina ; indeed, 
the whole science and practice of the bicycle 
is "in your eye" and in your will; the rest 
is mere manipulation. 

As I have said, in many curious particulars 
the bicycle is like the world. When it had 



24 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

thrown me painfully once (which was the 
extent of my downfalls during the entire pro- 
cess of learning, and did not prevent me from 
resuming my place on the back of the treach- 
erous creature a few minutes afterward), and 
more especially when it threw one of my 
dearest friends, hurting her knee so that it 
was painful for a month, then for a time 
Gladys had gladsome ways for me no longer, 
but seemed the embodiment of misfortune 
and dread. Even so the world has often 
seemed in hours of darkness and despon- 
dency ; its iron mechanism, its pitiless grind, 
its swift, silent, on-rolling gait have oppressed 
to pathos, if not to melancholy. Good health 
and plenty of oxygenated air have promptly 
restored the equilibrium. But how many a 
fine spirit, to finest issues touched, has been 
worn and shredded by the world's mill until 
in desperation it flung itself away. We can 
easily carp at those who quit the crowded 
race-course without so much as saying " By 
your leave " ; but " let him that thinketh he 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 2$ 

standeth take heed lest he fall." We owe it 
to nature, to nurture, to our environments, 
and, most of all, to our faith in God, that we, 
too, do not cry, like so many gentle hearts less 
brave and sturdy, "Anywhere, anywhere, out 
of the world." 

Gradually, item by item, I learned the lo- 
cation of every screw and spring, spoke and 
tire, and every beam and bearing that went 
to make up Gladys. This was not the lesson 
of a day, but of many days and weeks, and it 
had to be learned before we could get on 
well together. To my mind the infelicities 
of which we see so much in life grow out of 
lack of time and patience thus to study and 
adjust the natures that have agreed in the 
sight of God and man to stand by one another 
to the last. They will not take the pains, they 
have not enough specific gravity, to balance 
themselves in their new environment. In- 
deed, I found a whole philosophy of life in the 
wooing and the winning of my bicycle. 

Just as a strong and skilful swimmer takes 



26 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

the waves, so the bicycler must learn to take 
such waves of mental impression as the pass- 
ing of a gigantic hay- wagon, the sudden ob- 
trusion of black cattle with wide-branching 
horns, the rattling pace of high-stepping 
steeds, or even the swift transit of a railway- 
train. At first she will be upset by the ap- 
parition of the smallest poodle, and not until 
she has attained a wide experience will she 
hold herself steady in presence of the critical 
eyes of a coach-and-four. But all this is a 
part of that equilibration of thought and ac- 
tion by which we conquer the universe in 
conquering ourselves. 

I finally concluded that all failure was from 
a wobbling will rather than a wobbling wheel. 
I felt that indeed the will is the wheel of the 
mind its perpetual motion having been 
learned when the morning stars sang to- 
gether. When the wheel of the mind went 
well then the rubber wheel hummed merrily ; 
but specters of the mind there are as well as 
of the wheel. In the aggregate of percep- 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 2J 

tion concerning which we have reflected and 
from which we have deduced our generaliza- 
tions upon the world without, within, above, 
there are so many ghastly and fantastical 
images that they must obtrude themselves 
at certain intervals, like filmy bits of glass 
in the turn of the kaleidoscope. Probably 
every accident of which I had heard or read 
in my half-century tinged the uncertainty 
that by the correlation of forces passed over 
into the tremor that I felt when we began to 
round the terminus bend of the broad Priory 
walk. And who shall say by what original 
energy the mind forced itself at once from 
the contemplation of disaster and thrust into 
the very movement of the foot on the pedal 
a concept of vigor, safety, and success? I 
began to feel that myself plus the bicycle 
equaled myself plus the world, upon whose 
spinning-wheel we must all learn to ride, or 
fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. 
That which made me succeed with the bicycle 
was precisely what had gained me a measure 



28 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

of success in life it was the hardihood of 
spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of 
will that held me to my task, and the patience 
that was willing to begin again when the last 
stroke had failed. And so I found high 
moral uses in the bicycle and can commend 
it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. He 
who succeeds, or, to be more exact in hand- 
ing over my experience, she who succeeds in 
gaining the mastery of such an animal as 
Gladys, will gain the mastery of life, and by 
exactly the same methods and character- 
istics. 

One of the first things I learned was that 
unless a forward impetus were given within 
well-defined intervals, away we went into the 
gutter, rider and steed. And I said to my- 
self : " It is the same with all reforms : some- 
times they seem to lag, then they barely 
balance, then they begin to oscillate as if 
they would lose the track and tumble to one 
side; but all they need is a new impetus at 
the right moment on the right angle, and 



HOIV I LEARNED TO RIDE 29 

away they go again as merrily as if they had 
never threatened to stop at all." 

On the Castle terrace we went through a 
long, narrow curve in a turret to seek a 
broader esplanade. As we approached it I 
felt wrought up in my mind, a little uncertain 
in my motions; and for that reason, on a 
small scale, my quick imagination put before 
me pictures of a "standing from under" on 
the part of the machine and damaging bruises 
against the pitiless walls. But with a little 
unobtrusive guiding by one who knew better 
than I how to do it we soon came out of the 
dim passage on to the broad, bright terrace 
we sought, and in an. instant my fears were 
as much left behind as if I had not had them. 
So it will be, I think, I hope nay, I believe 
when, children that we are, we tremble on 
the brink and fear to launch away ; but we 
shall find that death is only a bend in the 
river of life that sets the current heavenward. 

One afternoon, on the terrace at Eastnor 
Castle the most delightful bicycle gallery I 



30 A WHEEL WHHIN A WHEEL 

have found anywhere I fell to talking with 
a young companion about New-Year resolu- 
tions. It was just before Christmas, but the 
sky was of that moist blue that England only 
knows, and the earth almost steamy in the 
mild sunshine, while the soft outline of the 
famous Malvern Hills was restful as the little 
lake just at our feet, where swans were sail- 
ing or anchoring according to their fancy. 

One of us said : " I have already chosen 
my motto for 1894, and it is this, from a 
teacher who so often said to her pupils, when 
meeting them in corridor or recitation- room, 
' I have heard something nice about you,' 
that it passed into a proverb in the school. 
Now I have determined that my mental atti- 
tude toward everybody shall be the same that 
these words indicate. The meaning is iden- 
tical with that of the inscription on the fire- 
place in my den at home ' Let something 
good be said.' I remember mentioning to 
a literary friend that this was what I had 
chosen, and so far was he from perceiving 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 31 

my intention that he sarcastically remarked, 
' Are you then afraid that people will say 
dull things unless you set this rule before 
them ? ' But my thought then was as it is 
now, that we should apply in our discussions 
of people and things the rule laid down by 
Coleridge, namely, ' Look for the good in 
everything that you behold and every per- 
son, but do not decline to see the defects if 
they are there, and to refer to them.' ' 

"That is an excellent motto," brightly re- 
plied the other, " but if we followed it life 
would not be nearly so amusing as it is now. 
I have several friends whose rule is never to 
say any harm of anybody, and to my mind 
this cripples their development, for the ten- 
dency of such a method is to dull one's pow- 
ers of discrimination." 

" But," said the first speaker, " would not 
a medium course be better? such a one, 
for instance, as my motto suggests. This 
would not involve keeping silence about the 
faults of persons and things, but would de- 



32 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

velop that cheerful atmosphere which helps 
to smooth the rough edges of life, and at the 
same time does not destroy the critical faculty, 
because you are to tell the truth and the whole 
truth concerning those around you, whereas 
the common custom is to speak much of de- 
fects and little or not at all of merits." 

"Yes," was the reply, "but it is not half 
so entertaining to speak of virtues as of faults, 
especially in this country ; if you don't criti- 
cize you can hardly talk at all, because the 
English dwell a great deal on what we in 
America call ' the selvage side ' of things." 

" Have you, then, noticed this as a national 
peculiarity after ten years of observation? " 

" Yes ; and I have often heard it remarked, 
not only by our own countrymen, but by the 
people here." 

"What do you think explains it?" 

" Well, I am inclined to apply the theory 
of M. Taine, the great French critic, to most 
of the circumstances of life, and I should say 
it was the climate; its uncertainty, its con- 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 33 

stant changes, the heaviness of the atmo- 
sphere, the amount of fog, the real stress and 
strain to live that results from trying physical 
conditions added to the razor-sharp edge of 
business and social competition and the close 
contact that comes of packing forty millions 
of people of pronounced individuality on an 
island no bigger than the State of Georgia. 
To my mind the wonder is that they behave 
so well!" 

Once, when I grew somewhat discouraged 
and said that I had made no progress for a 
day or two, my teacher told me that it was 
just so when she learned : there were grow- 
ing days and stationary days, and she had 
always noticed that just after one of these 
last dull, depressing, and dubious intervals 
she seemed to get an uplift and went ahead 
better than ever. It was like a spurt in row- 
ing. This seems to be the law of progress 
in everything we do ; it moves along a spiral 
rather than a perpendicular; we seem to be 
actually going out of the way, and yet it 



34 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

turns out that we were really moving upward 
all the time. 

One day, when my most expert trainer 
twisted the truth a little that she might en- 
courage me, I was reminded of an anecdote. 

In this practical age an illustration of the 
workings of truthfulness will often help a 
child more than any amount of exhortation 
concerning the theory thereof. For instance, 
a father in that level-headed part of the 
United States known as " out West " found 
that his little boy was falling into the habit of 
telling what was not true ; so he said to him 
at the lunch-table, "Johnnie, I will come 
around with a horse and carriage at four 
o'clock to take you and mama for a drive this 
afternoon." The boy was in high spirits, 
and watched for his father at the gate ; but 
the hours passed by until six o'clock, when 
that worthy appeared walking up the street 
in the most unconcerned manner ; and when 
Johnnie, full of indignation and astonish- 
ment, asked him why he did not come as he 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 35 

had promised, the father said, " Oh, my boy, 
I just took it into my head that I would 
tell you a lie about the matter, just as you 
have begun telling lies to me." The boy be- 
gan to cry with mingled disappointment and 
shame to think his father would do a thing 
like that ; whereupon the father took the lit- 
tle fellow on his knee and said : " This has all 
been done to show you what mischief comes 
from telling what is not true. It spoils every- 
body's good time. If you cannot believe what 
I say and I cannot believe what you say, and 
nobody can believe what anybody says, then 
the world cannot go on at all ; it would have 
to stop as the old eight- day clock did the 
other day, making us all late to dinner. It 
is only because, as a rule, we can believe in 
one another's word that we are able to have 
homes, do business, and enjoy life. Who- 
ever goes straight on telling the truth helps 
more by that than he could in any other one 
way to build up the world into a beautiful 
and happy place ; and every time anybody 



36 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

tells what is not true he helps to weaken 
everybody's confidence in everybody else, 
and to spoil the good time, not of himself 
alone, but of all those about him." 

MY TEACHERS 

I studied my various kind teachers with 
much care. One was so helpful that but for 
my protest she would fairly have carried me 
in her arms, and the bicycle to boot, the whole 
distance. This was because she had not a 
scintilla of knowledge concerning the machine, 
and she did not wish me to come to grief 
through any lack on her part. 

Another was too timorous ; the very twit- 
ter of her face, swiftly communicated to her 
arm and imparted to the quaking cross-bar, 
convulsed me with an inward fear ; therefore, 
for her sake and mine, I speedily counted her 
out from the faculty in my bicycle college. 

Another (and she, like most of my teachers, 
was a Londoner) was herself so capable, not to 




"SO HASY WHHN YOU KNOW HOW." 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 37 

say adventurous, and withal so solicitous for 
my best good, that she elicited my admiration 
by her ingenious mixture of cheering me on 
and holding me back; the latter, however, 
predominated, for she never relinquished her 
strong grasp on the cross-bar. She was a 
fine, brave character, somewhat inclined to a 
pessimistic view of life because of severe ex- 
perience at home, which, coming to her at a 
pitifully early period, when brain and fancy 
were most impressionable, wrought an in- 
justice to a nature large and generous one 
which under happier skies would have blos- 
somed out into a perfect flower of woman- 
hood. My offhand thinkings aloud, to which 
I have always been greatly given, especially 
when in genial company, she seemed to "catch 
on the fly," as a reporter impales an idea on 
his pencil-point. We had no end of what 
we thought to be good talk of things in 
heaven and earth and the waters under the 
earth; of the mystery that lies so closely 
round this cradle of a world, and all the 



38 A WHEEL WITHM A WHEEL 

varied and ingenious ways of which the bi- 
cycle, so slow to give up its secret to a care- 
worn and inelastic pupil half a century old, 
was just then our whimsical and favorite 
symbol. 

We rejoiced together greatly in perceiving 
the impetus that this uncompromising but 
fascinating and inimitably capable machine 
would give to that blessed " woman ques- 
tion " to which we were both devoted ; for 
we had earned our own bread many a year, 
and she, although more than twenty years 
my junior, had accumulated an amount of 
experience well-nigh as great, because she 
had lived in the world's heart, or the world's 
carbuncle (just as one chooses to regard what 
has been called in literary phrase the capital 
of humanity). We saw that the physical de- 
velopment of humanity's mother-half would 
be wonderfully advanced by that universal 
introduction of the bicycle sure to come 
about within the next few years, because it 
is for the interest of great commercial monop- 



HOW 1 LEARNED TO RIDE 39 

olies that this should be so, since if women 
patronize the wheel the number of buyers will 
be twice as large. If women ride they must, 
when riding, dress more rationally than they 
have been wont to do. If they do this many 
prejudices as to what they may be allowed to 
wear will melt away. Reason will gain upon 
precedent, and ere long the comfortable, sen- 
sible, and artistic wardrobe of the rider will 
make the conventional style of woman's dress 
absurd to the eye and unendurable to the un- 
derstanding. A reform often advances most 
rapidly by indirection. An ounce of practice 
is worth a ton of theory ; and the graceful 
and becoming costume of woman on the bi- 
cycle will convince the world that has brushed 
aside the theories, no matter how well con- 
structed, and the arguments, no matter how 
logical, of dress- reformers. 

A woman with bands hanging on her hips, 
and dress snug about the waist and chokingly 
tight at the throat, with heavily trimmed 
skirts dragging down the back and numerous 



40 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

folds heating the lower part of the spine, and 
with tight shoes, ought to be in agony. She 
ought to be as miserable as a stalwart man 
would be in the same plight. And the fact 
that she can coolly and complacently assert 
that her clothing is perfectly easy, and that 
she does not want anything more comfortable 
or convenient, is the most conclusive proof 
that she is altogether abnormal bodily, and 
not a little so in mind. 

We saw with satisfaction the great advan- 
tage in good fellowship and mutual under- 
standing between men and women who take 
the road together, sharing its hardships and 
rejoicing in the poetry of motion through 
landscapes breathing nature's inexhaustible 
charm and skyscapes lifting the heart from 
what is to what shall be hereafter. We dis- 
coursed on the advantage to masculine char- 
acter of comradeship with women who were 
as skilled and ingenious in the manipulation 
of the swift steed as they themselves. We 
contended that whatever diminishes the sense 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 4! 

of superiority in men makes them more man- 
ly, brotherly, and pleasant to have about ; we 
felt sure that the bluff, the swagger, the bra- 
vado of young England in his teens would not 
outlive the complete mastery of the outdoor 
arts in which his sister is now successfully 
engaged. The old fables, myths, and follies 
associated with the idea of woman's incom- 
petence to handle bat and oar, bridle and rein, 
and at last the cross-bar of the bicycle, are 
passing into contempt in presence of the nim- 
bleness, agility, and skill of " that boy's sis- 
ter" ; indeed, we felt that if she continued to 
improve after the fashion of the last decade 
her physical achievements will be such that it 
will become the pride of many a ruddy youth 
to be known as " that girl's brother." As we 
discoursed of life, death, and the judgment to 
come, of " man's inhumanity to man," as well 
as to beasts, birds, and creeping things, we 
frequently recurred to a phrase that has be- 
come habitual with me in these later years 
when other worlds seem anchored close along- 



42 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

side this, and when the telephone, the phono- 
graph, and the microphone begin to show us 
that every breath carries in itself not only the 
power, but the scientific certainty of registra- 
tion : " Well, one thing is certain : we shall 
meet it in the ether." 

One of my companions in the tribulation 
of learning the bicycle, and the grace of its 
mastery, was a tall, bright-faced, vigorous- 
minded young Celt who is devoted to every 
good word and work and has had much ex- 
perience with the " submerged tenth," living 
among them and trying to build character 
among those waste places of humanity. I 
set out to teach this young woman the bi- 
cycle, and while she took her lesson which, 
as she is young, elastic, and long-limbed, 
was vastly less difficult than mine we talked 
of many things : American women, and why 
they do not walk; the English lower class, 
and why they are less vigorous than the 
Irish ; the English girl of the slums, and why 
she is less self-respecting than an Irish girl in 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 43 

the same station. "There are many things 
for which we cannot account," said my young 
friend ; whereupon, with the self-elected men- 
torship of my half-century, I oracularly ob- 
served : " Cosmos has not a consequence 
without a cause ; it is the business of reason 
to seek for causes, and, if it cannot make 
sure of them, to construct for itself theories 
as to what they are or will turn out to be 
when found. But the trouble is, when we 
have framed our theory, we come to look 
upon it as our child, that we have brought 
into the world, nurtured, and trained up by 
hand. The curse of life is that men will 
insist on holding their theories as true and 
imposing them on others; this gives rise to 
creeds, customs, constitutions, royalties, gov- 
ernments. Happy is he who knows that he 
knows nothing, or next to nothing, and holds 
his opinions like a bouquet of flowers in his 
hand, that sheds its fragrance everywhere, 
and which he is willing to exchange at any 
moment for one fairer and more sweet, in- 



44 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

stead of strapping them on like an armor oi 
steel and thrusting with his lance those who 
do not accept his notions." 

My last teacher was as ought to be the 
case on the principle of climax my best. I 
think she might have given many a pointer 
to folks that bring up children, and I realized 
that no matter how one may think himself 
accomplished, when he sets out to learn a 
new language, science, or the bicycle he has 
entered a new realm as truly as if he were a 
child newly born into the world, and " Ex- 
cept ye become as little children " is the law 
by which he is governed. Whether he will 
or not he must first creep, then walk, then 
run ; and the wisest guide he can have is the 
one who most studiously helps him to help 
himself. This was a truism that I had heard 
all my life long, but never did a realizing sense 
of it settle down upon my spirit so thoroughly 
as when I learned the bicycle. It is not the 
teacher who holds you in place by main 
strength that is going to help you win that 




"IT'S DOGGHI) AS DOHS IT." 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 45 

elusive, reluctant, inevitable prize we call suc- 
cess, but it is the one who, while studiously 
keeping in the background, steers you to the 
fore. So No. 12 had the wit and wisdom to 
retire to the rear of the saucy steed, that I 
might form the habit of seeing no sign of aid 
or comfort from any source except my own 
reaction on the treadles according to law; 
yet cunningly contrived, by laying a skilled 
hand upon the saddle without my observa- 
tion, knowledge, or consent, to aid me in my 
balancing. She diminished the weight thus 
set to my account as rapidly as my own in- 
creasing courage and skill rendered this pos- 
sible. 

I have always observed and not without 
a certain pleasure, remembering my brother's 
hardihood that wherever a woman goes 
some man has reached the place before her; 
and it did not dim the verdure of my laurels 
or the fullness of my content when I had 
mastered Gladys to ascertain, from a letter 
sent me by the wife of a man sixty-four 



46 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

years of age who had just learned, that I was 
"No. 2" instead of "No. I," thus obliging 
me to rectify the frontier of chronology as I 
had constructed it in relation to the conquest 
of the bicycle; for I vainly thought that I 
had fought the antics of Gladys as a sentry 
on duty away out on the extreme frontier of 
time. 

But at last (which means in two months or 
thereabouts, at ten or twenty minutes' prac- 
tice off and on daily) I reached the goal, and 
could mount the bicycle without the slightest 
foreign interference or even the moral sup- 
port of a sympathetic onlooker. In doing 
this I realized that the totality of what I had 
learned entered into the action. Every added 
increment of power that I had gained in bal- 
ancing, pedaling, steering, taking advantage 
of the surfaces, adjusting my weight accord- 
ing to my own peculiarities, and so on, was 
set to my account when I began to manage 
the bulky steed that behaves worst of all 
when a novice seeks the saddle and strikes 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 47 

out alone. Just so, I felt, it had been all my 
life and will be, doubtless, in all worlds and 
with us all. The totality of native forces and 
acquired discipline and expert knowledge 
stands us in good stead for each crisis that 
we have to meet. There is a momentum, a 
cumulative power on which we can count in 
every new circumstance, as a capitalist counts 
upon his credit at the bank. It is not only a 
divine declaration, it is one of the basic laws 
of being, that " all things work together for 
good to them that love God " that is, to 
them that are in love with God ; and he who 
loves a law of God and makes himself obe- 
dient to that law has by that much loved 
God, only he does not always have the wit 
to know it. 

The one who has learned latest and yet 
has really learned the mastery of the bicycle 
is the best teacher. Many a time I have 
heard boys in college say that it was not the 
famed mathematician who could teach them 
anything he knew too much, he was too 



48 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

far ahead for them to hear his voice, he was 
impatient of their halting steps ; but the tutor 
who had left college only the year before, and 
remembering his own failures and stupidity, 
had still that fellow-feeling that made him 
wondrous kind. 

As has been stated, my last epoch consisted 
of learning to mount ; that is the flans asinorum 
of the whole mathematical undertaking, for 
mathematical it is to a nicety. You have to 
balance your system more carefully than 
you ever did your accounts ; not the smallest 
fraction can be out of the way, or away you 
go, the treacherous steed forming one half of 
an equation and yourself with a bruised knee 
forming the other. You must add a stroke 
at just the right angle to mount, subtract one 
to descend, divide them equally to hold your 
seat, and multiply all these movements in 
definite ratio and true proportion by the 
swiftest of all roots, or you will become the 
most minus of quantities. You must foot up 
your accounts with the strictest regularity; 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 49 

there can be no partial payments in a business 
enterprise like this. 

Although I could now mount and descend, 
turn corners and get over the ground all by 
myself, I still felt a lack of complete faith in 
Gladys, although she had never harmed me 
but once, and then it was my own fault in 
letting go the gleaming cross-bar, which is 
equivalent to dropping the bridle of a spirited 
steed. Let it be carefully remembered by 
every " beginning " bicycler that, whatever 
she forgets, she must forever keep her " main 
hold," else her horse is not bitted and will 
shy to a dead certainty. 

As we grew better acquainted I thought 
how perfectly analogous were our relations to 
those of friends who became slowly seasoned 
one to the other : they have endured the vicis- 
situdes of every kind of climate, of the chang- 
ing seasons; they have known the heavy, 
water-logged conditions of spring, the shrink- 
age of summer's trying heat, the happy me- 
dium of autumn, and the contracting cold that 



50 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

winter brings ; they are like the bits of wood, 
exactly apportioned and attuned, that go to 
make up a Stradivarius violin. They can 
count upon one another and not disagree, be- 
cause the stress of life has molded them to 
harmony. They are like the well-worn robe, 
the easy shoe. There is no short road to this 
adjustment, so much to be desired ; not any 
will win it short of "patient continuance in 
well-doing." 

I noticed that the great law which I believe 
to be potential throughout the universe made 
no exception here : " According to thy faith 
be it unto thee " was the only law of success. 
When I felt sure that I should do my pedal- 
ing with judicial accuracy, and did not permit 
myself to dread the swift motion round a 
bend ; when I formed in my mind the image 
of a successful ascent of the " Priory Rise " ; 
when I fully purposed in my mind that I 
should not run into the hedge on the one side 
or the iron fence on the other, these pro- 
phecies were fulfilled with practical certainty. 



HOW 1 LEARNED TO RIDE 5 I 

I fell into the habit of varying my experience 
by placing before myself the image so ger- 
mane to the work in which I am engaged of 
an inebriate in action, and accompanied this 
mental panorama by an orchestral effect of 
my own producing : " They reel to and fro, 
and stagger like a drunken man;" but could 
never go through this three consecutive times 
without lurching off the saddle. But when I 
put before me, as distinctly as my powers of 
concentration would permit, the image of my 
mother holding steadily above me a pair of 
balances, and looking at me with that quizzical 
expectant glance I knew so well, and saying : 
"Do it? Of course you'll do it; what else 
should you do?" I found that it was palp- 
ably helpful in enabling me to " sit straight 
and hold my own " on my uncertain steed. 
She always maintained, in the long talks we 
had concerning immortality, that the law I 
mention was conclusive, and was wont to close 
our conversations on that subject (in which I 
held the interrogative position) with some 



52 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

such remark as this : " If Professor thinks 

he is not immortal he probably is not; if I 
think I am I may be sure I shall be, for is it 
not written in the law, ' According to thy 
faith be it unto thee ' ? " 

Gradually I realized a consoling degree of 
mastery over Gladys ; but nothing was more 
apparent to me than that we were not yet 
thoroughly acquainted we had not sum- 
mered and wintered together. I had not 
learned her kinks, and she was as full of 
them as the most spirited mare that sweeps 
the course on a Kentucky race-track. Al- 
though I have seen a race but once (and that 
was in the Champs Elysees, Paris, a quarter of 
a century ago), I am yet so much interested 
in the fact that it is a Flora Temple, a Gold- 
smith Maid, a Maud S., a Sunol, a California 
Maid that often stands first on the record, that 
I would fain have named my shying steed after 
one of these ; but as she was a gift from Lady 
Henry Somerset this seemed invidious in me 
as a Yankee woman, and so I called her 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 53 

Gladys, having in view the bright spirit of the 
donor, the exhilarating motion of the machine, 
and the gladdening effect of its acquaintance 
and use on my health and disposition. 

As I have said, I found from first to last that 
the process of acquisition exactly coincided 
with that which had given me everything I 
possessed of physical, mental, or moral suc- 
cess that is, skill, knowledge, character. I 
was learning the bicycle precisely as I learned 
the a-b-c. When I set myself, as a stint, 
to mount and descend in regular succession 
anywhere from twenty to fifty times, it was 
on the principle that we do a thing more 
easily the second time than the first, the third 
time than the second, and so on in a rapidly 
increasing ratio, until it is done without any 
conscious effort whatever. This was precisely 
the way in which my mother trained me to 
tell the truth, and my music-teacher taught me 
that mastership of the piano keyboard which 
I have lost by disuse. Falling from grace 
may mean falling from a habit formed how 



54 ^ WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

do we know? This opens a boundless field 
of ethical speculation which I would gladly 
have followed, but just then the steel steed 
gave a lurch as if to say, "Tend to your 
knitting " the favorite expression of a Rocky 
Mountain stage-driver when tourists taxed 
him with questions while he was turning 
round a bend two thousand feet above the 
valley. 

And now comes the question "What do the 
doctors say?" Here follow several testimo- 
nies: 

" The question now of great interest to girls 
is in regard to the healthfulness of the wheel. 
Many are prophesying dire results from this 
fascinating exercise, and fond parents are 
refusing to allow their daughters to ride be- 
cause they are girls. It will be a delight to 
girls to learn that the fact of their sex is, in 
itself, not a bar to riding a wheel. If the 
girl is normally constituted and is dressed 
hygienically, and if she will use judgment 
and not overtax herself in learning to ride, 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 55 

and in measuring the length of rides after she 
has learned, she is in no more danger from 
riding a wheel than is the young man. But 
if she persists in riding in a tight dress, and 
uses no judgment in deciding the amount of 
exercise she is capable of safely taking, it will 
be quite possible for her to injure herself, and 
then it is she, and not the wheel, that is to 
blame. Many physicians are now coming to 
regard the 'wheel' as beneficial to the health 
of women as well as of men." 

Dr. Seneca Egbert says : " As an exercise 
bicycling is superior to most, if not all, others 
at our command. It takes one into the out- 
door air ; it is entirely under control ; can be 
made gentle or vigorous as one desires; is 
active and not passive ; takes the rider out- 
side of himself and the thoughts and cares 
of his daily work; develops his will, his at- 
tention, his courage and independence, and 
makes pleasant what is otherwise most irk- 
some. Moreover, the exercise is well and 
equally distributed over almost the whole 



56 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

body, and, as Parker says, when all the mus- 
cles are exercised no muscle is likely to be 
over-exercised." 

He advocates cycling as a remedy for dys- 
pepsia, torpid liver, incipient consumption, 
nervous exhaustion, rheumatism, and melan- 
cholia. In regard to the exercise for women 
he says : " It gets them out of doors, gives 
them a form of exercise adapted to their 
needs, that they may enjoy in company with 
others or alone, and one that goes to the root 
of their nervous troubles." 

He instances two cases, of girls fourteen 
and eighteen years of age, where a decided 
increase in height could be fairly attributed to 
cycling. 

The question is often asked if riding a wheel 
is not the same as running a sewing-machine. 
Let the same doctor answer: "Not at all. 
Women, at least, sit erect on a wheel, and 
consequently the thighs never make even a 
right angle with the trunk, and there is no 
stasis of blood in the lower limbs and geni- 




LET GO BUT STAND BY 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 57 

talia. Moreover, the work itself makes the 
rider breathe in oceans of fresh air; while 
the woman at the sewing-machine works in- 
doors, stoops over her work, contracting the 
chest and almost completely checking the 
flow of blood to and from the lower half of 
her body, where at the same time she is in- 
creasing the demand for it, finally aggravat- 
ing the whole trouble by the pressure of the 
lower edge of the corset against the abdo- 
men, so that the customary congestions and 
displacements have good cause for their ex- 
istence." 

" The great desideratum in all recreations 
is pure air, plenty of it, and lungs free to ab- 
sorb it." (Dr. Lyman B. Sperry.) 

" Let go, but stand by " this is the golden 
rule for parent and pastor, teacher and friend ; 
the only rule that at once respects the indi- 
viduality of another and yet adds one's own, 
so far as may be, to another's momentum in 
the struggle of life. 

How difficult it is for the trainer to judge 



58 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

exactly how much force to exercise in help- 
ing to steer the wheel and start the wheeler 
along the macadamized highway! In this 
the point of view makes all the difference. 
The trainer is tall, the rider short; the first 
can poise on the off-treadle while one foot 
is on the ground, but the last must learn to 
balance while one foot is in the air. For 
one of these perfectly to comprehend the 
other's relation to the vehicle is practically 
impossible ; the degree to which he may at- 
tain this depends upon the amount of imagi- 
nation to the square inch with which he has 
been fitted out. The opacity of the mind, 
its inability to project itself into the realm of 
another's personality, goes a long way to ex- 
plain the friction of life. If we would set 
down other people's errors to this rather than 
to malice prepense we should not only get 
more good out of life and feel more kindly 
toward our fellows, but doubtless the recti- 
tude of our intellects would increase, and the 
justice of our judgments. For instance, it is 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 59 

my purpose, so far as I understand myself, to 
be considerate toward those about me; but 
my pursuits have been almost purely mental, 
and to perceive what would seem just to one 
whose pursuits have been almost purely me- 
chanical would require an act of imagination 
of which I am wholly incapable. We are so 
shut away from one another that none tells 
those about him what he considers ideal 
treatment on their part toward him. He 
thinks about it all the same, mumbles about 
it to himself, mutters about it to those of his 
own guild, and these mutterings make the 
discontent that finally breaks out in reforms 
whose tendency is to distribute the good 
things of this life more equally among the 
living. But nothing will probe to the core 
of this the greatest disadvantage under which 
we labor that is, mutual non-comprehen- 
sion except a basis of society and govern- 
ment which would make it easy for each to 
put himself in another's place because his 
place is so much like another's. We shall be 



60 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

less imaginative, perhaps, in those days the 
critics say this is inevitable; but it will only 
be because we need less imagination in order 
to do that which is just and kind to every 
one about us. 

In my early home my father always set us 
children to work by stints that is, he mea- 
sured off a certain part of the garden to be 
weeded, or other work to be done, and when 
we had accomplished it our working-hours 
were over. With this deeply ingrained habit 
in full force I set myself stints with the bicycle. 
In the later part of my novitiate fifty attempts 
a day were allotted to that most difficult of all 
achievements, learning to mount, and I cal- 
culate that five hundred such efforts well 
put in will solve that most intricate problem 
of specific gravity. 

Now concerning falls : I set out with the 
determination not to have any. Though 
mentally adventurous I have always been 
physically cautious ; a student of physiology 
in my youth, I knew the reason why I 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 6 1 

brought so much less elasticity to my task 
than did my young and agile trainers. I 
knew the penalty of broken bones, for these 
a tricycle had cost me some years before. 
My trainers were kind enough to encourage 
me by saying that if I became an expert in 
slow riding I should take the rapid wheel as 
a matter of course and thus be really more 
accomplished (in the long run as well as the 
short) than by any other process. So I have 
had but one real downfall to record as the 
result of my three months' practice, and it 
illustrates the old saying that " pride goeth 
before destruction, and a haughty spirit be- 
fore a fall " ; for I was not a little lifted up by 
having learned to dismount with confidence 
and ease I will not say with grace, for at 
fifty-three that would be an affectation so 
one bright morning I bowled on down the 
Priory drive waving my hand to my most 
adventurous aide-de-camp, and calling out 
as I left her behind, " Now you will see 
how nicely I can do it watch!" when be- 



62 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

hold ! that timid left foot turned traitor, and 
I came down solidly on my knee, and the 
knee on a pebble as relentless as prejudice 
and as opinionated as ignorance. The ner- 
vous shock made me well-nigh faint, the bi- 
cycle tumbled over on my prone figure, and 
I wished I had never heard of Gladys or of 
any wheel save 

" Fly swiftly round, ye wheels of time, 
And bring the welcome day " 

of my release into the ether. 

Let me remark to any young woman who 
reads this page that for her to tumble off her 
bike is inexcusable. The lightsome elasticity 
of every muscle, the quickness of the eye, the 
agility of motion, ought to preserve her from 
such a catastrophe. I have had no more falls 
simply because I would not. I have pro- 
ceeded on a basis of the utmost caution, and 
aside from that one pitiful performance the 
bicycle has cost me hardly a single bruise. 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 63 

AN ETHEREAL EPISODE 

They that know nothing fear nothing. 
Away back in 1886 my alert young friend, 
Miss Anna Gordon, and my ingenious young 
niece, Miss Katharine Willard, took to the 
tricycle as naturally as ducks take to water. 
The very first time they mounted they went 
spinning down the long shady street, with its 
pleasant elms, in front of Rest Cottage, where 
for nearly a generation mother and I had had 
our home. Even as the war-horse snuffeth 
the battle from afar, I longed to go and do like- 
wise. Remembering my country bringing- 
up and various exploits in running, climbing, 
horseback-riding, to say nothing of my tame 
heifer that I trained for a Bucephalus, I said 
to myself, " If those girls can ride without 
learning so can I!" Taking out my watch 
I timed them as they, at my suggestion, set 
out to make a record in going round the 
square. Two and a half minutes was the re- 
sult. I then started with all my forces well 



64 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

in hand, and flew around in two and a quarter 
minutes. Not contented with this, but puffed 
up with foolish vanity, I declared that I would 
go around in two minutes; and, encouraged 
by their cheers, away I went without a fear 
till the third turning-post was reached, when 
the left hand played me false, and turning at 
an acute angle, away I went sidelong, ma- 
chine and all, into the gutter, falling on my 
right elbow, which felt like a glassful of 
chopped ice, and I knew that for the first 
time in a life full of vicissitudes I had been 
really hurt. Anna Gordon's white face as 
she ran toward me caused me to wave my 
uninjured hand and call out, " Never mind!" 
and with her help I rose and walked into the 
house, wishing above all things to go straight 
to my own room and lie on my own bed, 
and thinking as I did so how pathetic is that 
instinct that makes "the stricken deer go 
weep," the harmed hare seek the covert. 

Two physicians were soon at my side, and 
my mother, then over eighty years of age, 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 65 

came in with much controlled agitation and 
seated herself beside my bed, taking my hand 
and saying, " O Frank ! you were always too 
adventurous." 

Our family physician was out of town, and 
the two gentlemen were well-nigh strangers. 
It was a kind face, that of the tall, thin man 
who looked down upon me in my humilia- 
tion, put his ear against my heart to see if 
there would be any harm in administering 
ether, handled my elbow with a woman's 
gentleness, and then said to his assistant, 
"Now let us begin." And to me who had 
been always well, and knew nothing of such 
unnatural proceedings, he remarked, "Breathe 
into the funnel full, natural breaths ; that is 
all you have to do." 

I set myself to my task, as has been my 
wont always, and soon my mother and my 
friend, Anna Gordon, who were fanning me 
with big "palm-leaves," became grotesque 
and then ridiculous, and I remember saying 
(or at least I remember that I once remem- 



66 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

bered), " You are a couple of enormous crick- 
ets standing on your hind legs, and you have 
each a spear of dry grass, and you look as 
if you were paralyzed; and you wave your 
withered spears of grass, and you call that 
fanning a poor woman who is suffocating 
before your eyes." I labored with them, en- 
treated them, and dealt with them in great 
plainness so much so that my mother could 
not bear to hear me talk in such a foolish 
fashion, and quietly withdrew to her own 
room, closed the door, and sat down to pos- 
sess her so'ul in patience until the operation 
should be over. 

Then the scene changed, and as they put 
on the splints pain was involved, and I heard 
those about me laughing in the most unfeel- 
ing manner while I murmured : " She always 
believed in humanity she always said she 
did and would ; and she has lived in this town 
thirty years, and they are hurting her they 
are hurting her dreadfully ; and if they keep 
on she will lose her faith in human nature, 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 67 

and if she should it will be the greatest calam- 
ity that can happen to a human being." 

Now the scene changed once more I was 
in the starry heavens, and said to the young 
friends who had come in and stood beside 
me : " Here are stars as thick as apples on a 
bough, and if you are good you shall each 
have one. And, Anna, because you are 
good, and always have been, you shall be 
given a whole solar system to manage just as 
you like. The Heavenly Father has no end 
of them ; He tosses them out of His hand as 
a boy does marbles ; He spins them like a 
cocoon; He has just as many after He has 
given them away as He had before He 
began." 

Then there settled down upon me the 
most vivid and pervading sense of the love 
of God that I have ever known. I can give 
no adequate conception of it, and what I said, 
as my comrades repeated it to me, was some- 
thing after this order : 

" We are like blood-drops floating through 



68 A WHEEL W1THM A WHEEL 

the great heart of our Heavenly Father. We 
are infinitely safe, and cared for as tenderly 
as a baby in its mother's arms. No harm 
can come anywhere near us; what we call 
harm will turn out to be the very best and 
kindest way of leading us to be our best 
selves. There is no terror in. the universe, 
for God is always at the center of everything. 
He is love, as we read in the good book, and 
He has but one wish that we should love 
one another ; in Him we live, and move, and 
have our being." 

Little by little, freeing my mind of all sorts 
of queer notions, I came back out of the 
only experience of the kind that I have ever 
known ; but I must say that had I not learned 
the great evils that result from using anes- 
thetics I should have wished to try ether 
again, just for the ethical and spiritual help 
that came to me. It let me out into a new 
world, greater, more mellow, more godlike, 
and it did me no harm at all. 

During the time my arm was in a sling I 



HOW 1 LEARNED TO RIDE 69 

" sat about " something not easy to do for 
one of active mind and life. I learned to 
write with my left hand for this was before 
the happy days of the many stenographers 
and my hieroglyphics went out to all the 
leading temperance women of this country. 
One morning the bell, distant and musical, 
tolled in the steeple of the university. We 
knew it meant that General Grant was dead, 
for the newspapers and despatches of the 
previous evening had prepared us. Some- 
how a deep chord in my soul vibrated to the 
tone of the bell a chord of patriotism and I 
went away to the vine-covered piazza, where 
I was wont to sit, and in twenty minutes 
(which fact is my apology for their limping 
feet) wrote out my heart in the following lines. 
They had at least the merit of sincere devo- 
tion, and were telephoned to Chicago, eleven 
miles away, by Anna Gordon, and appearing 
in the daily Inter-Ocean were read at their 
breakfast-tables by many other patriots next 
morning. I do not know when anything has 



70 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

given me more real pleasure than to be told 
that a stalwart soldier belonging to the Grand 
Army of the Republic read my crude but 
heartfelt lines aloud to his wife and daughter, 
and at the close brushed away a manly tear. 



GRANT IS DEAD. 



On Hearing the University Bell at Evanston, III. , Toll for 
the Death of General Grant at Nine O'clock A.M., 
July 23, 



Toll, bells, from every steeple, 
Tell the sorrow of the people ; 
Moan, sullen guns, and sigh 
For the greatest who could die. 
Grant is dead. 

Never so firm were set those moveless lips as now, 
Never so dauntless shone that massive brow ; 
The silent man has passed into the silent tomb. 

Ring out our grief, sweet bell, 

The people's sorrow tell 

For the greatest who could die. 
Grant is dead. 

" Let us have peace! " Great heart, 

That peace has come to thee ; 
Thy sword for freedom wrought, 

And now thy soul is free, 
While a rescued nation stands 

Mourning its fallen chief 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 71 

The Southern with the Northern lands, 

Akin in honest grief. 
The hands of black and white 

Shall clasp above thy grave, 
Children of the Republic all, 

No master and no slave. 
Almost " all summer on this line " 
Thou steadily didst " fight it out " ; 
But Death, the silent, 
Matched at last our silent chief, 
And put to rout his brave defense. 

Moan, sullen guns, and sigh 

For the bravest who could die. 
Grant is dead. 

The huge world holds to-day 

No fame so great, so wide, 
As his whose steady eyes grew dim 

On Mount McGregor's side 
Only an hour ago, and yet 
The whole great world has learned 
That Grant is dead. 

O heart of Christ ! what joy 

Brings earth's new brotherhood! 

All lands as one, 

Buckner, Grant's bed beside, 

The priest and Protestant in converse kind ; 

Prayers from all hearts, and Grant 

Praying " we all might meet in better worlds." 

Toll, bells, from every steeple, 

Tell the sorrow of the people ; 

So true in life, so calm and strong, 

Bravest of all, in death suffering so long 



72 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

And without one complaint! 
Moan, sullen guns, and sigh 
For the greatest who could die ; 
Salute the nation's head. 
Our Grant is dead. 



IN CONCLUSION 

If I am asked to explain why I learned the 
bicycle I should say I did it as an act of grace, 
if not of actual religion. The cardinal doctrine 
laid down by my physician was, " Live out of 
doors and take congenial exercise;" but from 
the day when, at sixteen years of age, I was 
enwrapped in the long skirts that impeded 
every footstep, I have detested walking and 
felt with a certain noble disdain that the con- 
ventions of life had cut me off from what in 
the freedom of my prairie home had been 
one of life's sweetest joys. Driving is not 
real exercise; it does not renovate the river 
of blood that flows so sluggishly in the veins 
of those who from any cause have lost the 
natural adjustment of brain to brawn. Horse- 
back-riding, which does promise vigorous ex- 
ercise, is expensive. The bicycle meets all 




AT LAST." 



HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE 73 

the conditions and will ere long come within 
the reach of all. Therefore, in obedience to 
the laws of health, I learned to ride. I also 
wanted to help women to a wider world, for 
I hold that the more interests women and 
men can have in common, in thought, word, 
and deed, the happier will it be for the home. 
Besides, there was a special value to women in 
the conquest of the bicycle by a woman in 
her fifty-third year, and one who had so many 
comrades in the white-ribbon army that her 
action would be widely influential. Then 
there were three minor reasons : 

I did it from pure natural love of adven- 
ture a love long hampered and impeded, like 
a brook that runs underground, but in this 
enterprise bubbling up again with somewhat 
of its pristine freshness and taking its merry 
course as of old. 

Second, from a love of acquiring this new 
implement of power and literally putting it 
underfoot. 

. Last, but not least, because a good many 
people thought I could not do it at my age. 



74 A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL 

It is needless to say that a bicycling cos- 
tume was a prerequisite. This consisted of 
a skirt and blouse of tweed, with belt, rolling 
collar, and loose cravat, the skirt three inches 
from the ground; a round straw hat, and 
walking-shoes with gaiters. It was a simple, 
modest suit, to which no person of common 
sense could take exception. 

As nearly as I can make out, reducing the 
problem to actual figures, it took me about 
three months, with an average of fifteen min- 
utes' practice daily, to learn, first, to pedal ; 
second, to turn; third, to dismount; and 
fourth, to mount independently this most 
mysterious animal. January 2Oth will always 
be a red-letter bicycle day, because although 
I had already mounted several times with no 
hand on the rudder, some good friend had 
always stood by to lend moral support ; but 
summoning all my force, and, most forcible 
of all, what Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson 
declares to be the two essential elements de- 
cision and precision I mounted and started 



HO W I LEARNED TO RIDE 75 

off alone. From that hour the spell was 
broken; Gladys was no more a mystery: I 
had learned all her kinks, had put a bridle in 
her teeth, and touched her smartly with the 
whip of victory. Consider, ye who are of a 
considerable chronology : in about thirteen 
hundred minutes, or, to put it more mildly, 
in twenty-two hours, or, to put it most mildly 
of all, in less than a single day as the almanac 
reckons time but practically in two days of 
actual practice amid the delightful sur- 
roundings of the great outdoors, and inspired 
by the bird- songs, the color and fragrance of 
an English posy-garden, in the company of 
devoted and pleasant comrades, I had made 
myself master of the most remarkable, inge- 
nious, and inspiring motor ever yet devised 
upon this planet. 

Moral : Go thou and do likewise! 







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